10 Myths About Your Pet

You’ve probably heard it before: A wagging tail means a friendly dog. Cats and babies don’t mix. Table scraps are bad. But are these so-called nuggets of wisdom really true? Here, we debunk 10 commonly believed myths about our beloved pets.

pet-wagging tail

Myth: A wagging tail means a friendly dog.

Fact: Not always! Tail wags can mean different things, some friendly and others not, says the American Pet Association. Instead you need to look at the overall posture of the dog and anything else it’s doing. Relaxed dogs generally have a gently wagging tail held horizontally or slightly lowered, and a raised tail usually indicates the dog is feeling confident. A dog with its tail tucked can indicate anxiety, avoidance or caution. Signs that you should back off from a dog include a stiffly lowered tail (wagging or not) combined with a lowered head, direct stare, closed mouth, and ears held back.

pets-paw-printsMyth: Cats always land on their feet.

Fact: While it is true that cats instinctively control their fall and have an uncanny ability to land feet first, this is not always the case. Cats can be injured during a fall and they should not be ‘tested’ or allowed to climb in high places.

pet-dog on beachMyth: Animals that are neutered or spayed gain weight.

Fact: Not true. As with humans, your pet’s weight is typically related to food intake and exercise. An animal’s diet should be adjusted throughout its life to take into account age, activity and lifestyle.

pet-cold-noseMyth: If a dog’s nose is cold, it is healthy.

Fact: A dog’s nose is usually cold because of the evaporation of the moisture put there by the dog’s licking. A dog could have any number of illnesses and still have a cold nose.

pet-dog-leashMyth: Dogs can be taught to walk on a leash, but cats can not.

Fact: Dog-lovers aren’t the only ones who can enjoy a stroll with their furry companions. Yes, most cats can be easily trained to walk on a leash. Just be sure to keep your cat clear of temptations such as trees that it may climb and get tangled in.

pets-table-foodMyth: ‘People food’ is bad for your pet.

Fact: This is sometimes true. Certain foods such as chocolate, grapes, garlic and onions can be toxic for your pet. (Read more on foods you should never give your pet.) You should also avoid giving your pet food that is spicy or high in fat. However, some foods such as carrots, apples, crunchy or lightly steamed vegetables and meat with the fat and gristle trimmed off are fine to share. If you are feeding your pet ‘people food’ on a regular basis make sure you use high quality ingredients and provide a balanced and complete diet. (See Cooking for your pet.) Note: Keep in mind that feeding your dog or a cat from the table even once can create a determined beggar.

pets-dog-open-mouthMyth: With dogs, bad breath pretty much comes with the territory.

Fact: While unpleasant breath can be normal, really bad breath can be a sign of dental problems. Ask your vet to look at your dog’s teeth regularly and follow a dental plan.

pets-baby-in-cribMyth: Your cat is a danger to your baby.

Fact: The fear that a cat can harm a baby by lying on it and smothering it is so widespread that some new families even consider giving up their cat upon the arrival of a new baby. However, if common sense precautions are taken, a cat should present no danger to your baby. These include keeping the cat out of the room where the baby sleeps, as well as never leaving the baby and cat unattended. As is the case with any pet, it’s a good idea to give your cat plenty of attention away from the baby so it will not feel abandoned.

pets-dog-grass-2Myth: Dogs and cats eat grass when they’re sick.

Fact: Not true. In fact, many dogs and cats simply enjoy the taste and texture of grass. Beware, however, if your pet begins snacking in the garden. Certain common plants such as rhododendrons, daffodils, and marigolds can be toxic for pets. (See a list of poisonous plants for dogs and cats.)

pets-bowl-of-milkMyth: Cats should drink milk.

Fact: While most cats like milk, they don’t actually need it if they are receiving a proper diet. In fact, many adult cats are lactose intolerant, and drinking milk can cause diarrhea.